October 21, 2015
by Deb Rose-Milavec
Catholic Women Speak: 265 books delivered to the synod hallKate McElwee of Women’s Ordination Conference confirmed that she has now delivered 265 books to the synod hall. That means a big majority of synod participants took one and hopefully read what women had to say about the issues. No doubt, Catholic women and men around the world are indebted to the many women who made this book possible and especially to Tina Beattie who carried it to completion.
Where we are in the process
The final small group reports are out. Today, the relators worked to combine those reports showing where there is a consensus among the thirteen small groups. That report went to the ten-person drafting committee who will finalize the document. Tomorrow morning, bright and early Cardinal Erdo will present the first draft of the final document to the plenary assembly. Then the voting members will have one last chance to submit observations in writing. On October 23, the drafting commission will incorporate the final observations into the document. On Saturday, October 24, the synod will vote, paragraph by paragraph. A two-thirds majority is required for approval of the text. Once approved it will be submitted to Pope Francis.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx does not mince words. But still, he stunned the press today when he called out Cardinal George Pell for speaking so disparagingly about Cardinal Walter Kasper in a recent interview in Le Figaro. The first paragraph of their small group report alluded to it but, when asked about the meaning, Marx named names.
“We were negatively touched by an interview from Cardinal Pell when he mentioned the “Kasperiana” and the “Ratzingeriana” and, I think something like the last battle between these groups . . . we thought this is not acceptable or useful for the synod.”
He went on to comment that he was glad that maybe not so many had read this interview, but he had talked to Cardinal Kasper who was “very touched by it.” He said that Cardinal Schoenborn would speak with Cardinal Pell about it and that it was “hard” because “in the synod we are not in a battle.”
The German miracle
What do you get when you put Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, Cardinal Walter Kasper, Cardinal Reinhard Marx and Cardinal Schonborn into a room together for three weeks? If you are thinking — knock down drag out fights, proverbial “black eyes” or explosions — you would be wrong.
What happened, in fact, may be a miracle; a living testament to the kind of synodality that Pope Francis hoped for; and a sign that even those who have been known for their doctrinaire positions can find a way forward with those who seek reform.
Marx couched it is human terms. “We have discussed a lot and we know each other — Cardinal Mueller, Cardinal Kasper, Cardinal Marx, Cardinal Koch, and the others, and the couple . . . that is a good fundamental – to speak together, to be open – to say ‘can we find the meaning here.’”
At the end of the third week of small group discussions, the German group came to some astounding and unanimous decisions — emphasis on the unanimous given the makeup of the group.
They included, among many interventions, a way forward for divorced and remarried Catholics, the social construction of gender (nature vs. nurture) and the need to stand strong against discrimination against women. Marx summed up.
1. The Holy Father has asked to speak about the family . . .the family is at the center. Thanks to the Catholic Church that has made marriage and family so important. How can we help families with the dream they have. The most intimate and private moments and actions are of the most important to public interest. Otherwise society will not have a future.
2. The discussion about gender, we are concerned about it. We tried to make a good difference about what is meant by the social construction of gender and the clear difference between a man and woman. We are against discrimination of women and we must discuss this intensely. All ideologies which are trying to make gender a question of choice by anybody — that will not be accepted by the church. But also there must be no discrimination against woman.
3. In the question of sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics, everyone is looking at this issue. It is not the only issue, but it is clear all are interested. In this issue we show how we answer the question, “Will you stay with us when we fail?” They want to hear from us and they want to know what will happen and how the Church will treat us when we fail.
Marx ended on a beautiful note, made more beautiful by the thought that this was also Mueller’s note, “Yes, the church will be with you when you fail. Yes, we stay together. You belong to us.”
Because the German contingent wants to find a way forward for divorced and remarried Catholics, and because they were able to come to consensus on a reformed way, they may influence the rest of the synod on Thursday as the voting members make further interventions that will be incorporated into the final paragraphs for the vote on Saturday.
What seemed clear today is the German episcopate has a strong unified voice at this synod that could help open some doors that others are reluctant to try. The official translation of their small group report is forthcoming.
One Canadian woman talks about her experience
In a report by the Catholic Register, Moira McQueen describes her experience at the synod. She observed that the press reports seemed pretty distant from her experience of a complex and subtle debate around the issues.
“Once you are inside, you have a narrower view in some ways,” McQueen wrote (the interview was by email). She said the debate seemed rather normal.
“I get the impression, yes, there’s a divide,” she wrote. “But people are just hashing it out in the usual way and it didn’t seem to frighten people. He (Pope Francis) asked for an open discussion.”
McQueen does not think the synod was rigged to get a pre-determined outcomes.
In her own small group, English group “C“, there was a wide spectrum of opinion and the group found itself talking and thinking about far more issues than communion for the divorced and remarried.
McQueen believes the synod is changing hearts and eventually minds writing, “Perhaps our minds might not move on some issues at this point. But, with the exchange of ideas and insights, our hearts will be affected.”
For her, the process has engendered greater space for change.
“I’m finding that in our small group there are good attempts at listening to the different cultural experiences of our members – mainly bishops (including three cardinals), one married couple, two auditors and one expert, 24 in all,” she wrote.
While McQueen does not vote, she feels she does have a voice.
“As an auditor, I have the same length of time as the cardinals and bishops to speak – three minutes,” she reports. “The process in my group (discussion circle) is fairly balanced. We can speak when we want and our contributions are listened to and used in our group reports.”
Archbishop Paul-André Durocher’s intervention on behalf of women, bringing up family violence, plus decision-making and leadership roles for women in the Church, had “quite an impact,” said McQueen.
“His suggestions that married couples might give homilies and that women could be deacons – I think those are good ideas and with some precedent,” she wrote. “Nobody fainted, nor were there audible gasps.”
As a theologian, Moira McQueen tends to lean traditional as a member of the International Theological Commission, so her observations here are remarkable and shows how women “from both sides of the aisle” in Church politics want to see women’s leadership and ministry advance.
A question about how women fared at the Synod
After Sr. Maureen Kelleher’s remarks about the condescension she and other lay people faced in her small group, I had to ask if that was true in other groups. So today I did.
Deb’s Question: This question is for Archbishop Martin.
In an interview this week, Joshua McElwee of the National Catholic reporter interviewed U.S. Sacred Heart of Mary Sr. Maureen Kelleher who was in “English group “D”.
She said there is a clear cultural divide between bishops’ and laypersons’ points of view and at times she faced “condescension so heavy, you could cut it with a knife.”
Archbishop Martin, in your English Group “C” there were four women. Do you think the women in your group experienced the same dynamic? And what are the concrete and specific ways the contributions of the women in your group were integrated into your report?
Archbishop Martin replied that he was truly sorry that Sr. Kelleher had that experience. He did not feel the same was true of his group. In fact, he felt that women were treated equally. He did acknowledge that process-wise, there was a big difference in that women did not get to vote. Wisely, he suggested that it would be best to hear that from the women themselves on how they viewed their experience.
It seems his impression is confirmed by Moira McQueen (above) who felt she did have a voice and was able to have her say in shaping the small group documents.
As one might expect, group dynamics varied. And if you look at the groupmembership of Sr. Kelleher’s English Group “D” it seems clear that, given some of the culture warriors with whom she shared space with for three weeks, it is not surprising she faced a fair bit of disdain and condescension for her own viewpoints. On the other hand, English Group “C” with Moira McQueen seemed to have created a more equalizing atmosphere.
We need to hear more from women about what they experienced in the synod hall and what influence they had as we head toward getting a Relatio Finalis.
Every day Vatican News Service records the press briefings. You can find my question and the answer from Archbishop Martin at https://youtu.be/k8kszZ0km-Q (29:20).